Below are last month’s reviews. The book reviews are here.
The Darjeeling Limited – Three brothers on a road trip through India. I enjoyed this and am glad I went, but don’t feel the need to watch it again. The Life Aquatic was entertainment. This was… an experience. Not a comedy, not a drama, not a tourism advertisement, not a tragedy, although on levels it was all those things. It was like… fine art (painted with a palette knife in safron and peacock colours), where you are glad to have seen a piece, whereas The Life Aquatic was illustration – all narrative and story.
The Golden Compass – This, people, is how it is done! If I’m going to watch a flawed adaptation of a book, I’ll take this over The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe anyday. It got some things hideously wrong and made the sort of judgement calls where you know how they got to a decision but it’s bleedingly obvious they made the wrong one. But where they got it right it was very right – Lyra and Asriel, to a degree Mrs Coulter (that was a case of getting the actress right more than the character), Mrs Coulter’s beautiful, horrible monkey, and the Texan Lee Scoresby. It was genuinely gripping in parts, so that I felt like I was flying while sitting in a cinema seat. It had grit and edge and blood and guts and airships and children who played games like children and adults who were complicated and… I’m still all “wipe your sword? there’s no blood!” after TLT&TW, so I left this very happy. I’m not getting into the “controversial” aspects of this movie right now, maybe another time. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better made (someone said “it’s such a shame the world makes such good movies” and I came back with, “it’s such a shame Christians make such insipid ones”, which was perhaps generalised and unfair, but I hope Prince Caspian is an improvement).
Enchanted – How many ways did I expect this not to work? Let me count the ways – and then admit I was wrong. This was a Disney movie both being utterly Disney and making fun of itself at the same time and the wheels did not fall off. Where it was weak, it was better than expected. Where it was good it was hilarious. The princess’ character (so perfectly Disney animation even when live on the streets of Manhattan), the dancing in the park, the melodrama, the dress made out of curtains. Light and effortless – I had a ball. Best line… I’m torn between “Perhaps an open meadow… or a hollow tree” or Marsden’s prince responding to the question of whether he liked himself with, “What’s not to like?”. But more on him later.
27 Dresses – This was better than the average romantic comedy. That is a poor compliment, of course, and in many ways this was very stockstandard and depressing and unromantic and problematic on all levels. But, it had Heigl’s brilliantly borderline acting, some very funny montage sequences of dresses and weddings, and Marsden again.
An Aside on Marsden – I can’t say he affected me at all as Cyclops, although the Backstreet Boys scene in the second movie should have been a cue. But he’s growing on me. I have a lot of respect for people who are serious but don’t take themselves too seriously, and his Corny Collins in Hairspray was perfectly corny, foppish and heroic. Then he wore tights and puffy sleeves in Enchanted and was marvellously cool and self-satisfied. And while 27 Dresses was a step down from those rolls, he had a character (not that anyone bothered to do anything to it) that was enjoyable to watch and, together with Heigl, conspired to elevate the film from the drudge in just a few places.
Juno – Not the best movie of the century, but better than most. It was gently both surprising and satisfying: a film about teenagers that was not angsty; a film about teen pregnancy that was neither moralistic nor sensationalised; a film about big events that still manages to be only a few seasons from lives that you know go on before and after. And the cardboard cutout characters turned out not to be – the cool guy was human and selfish, the neurotic overachiever was sympathetic, the flirtatious cheerleader a giddy, faithful friend, the nail-technician stepmother a superhero, the drugstore attendant a show-stealer, the brash independent teenager ultimately only such a little girl herself. But best of all it was ultimately a small movie about characters who weren’t normal but individual and it was beautiful.
No Country for Old Men – Stunning, silent and achingly suspenseful. I was dissatisfied with the end, but then I realised (a) it wouldn’t have been as good a movie with the ending I wanted, (b) the characters I thought it was about weren’t the main characters and (c) I should have realised whose story it was because he got the voiceover, the realisation and the title, and when I realised that it all made sense and it was a fitting ending. Javier Bardem was brilliant. My boss said you couldn’t imagine him as a romantic lead after that role, and I tried and he was right. He was stunning. And Tommy Lee Jones was born to play wry sheriffs.
Sweeney Todd – People kept saying, “Oh, I don’t know if it’s my sort of movie” and I (who admit to having difficulties sympathising with that statement anyway) was all, “What do you mean it’s not your sort of movie? Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Giles, Sondheim, music, murder, Victorian London – what demographic does that not cover?!“. I was wrong. It had all those things and… buckets and buckets and buckets of blood. Well, stage blood. Red paint. It worked more as a design element rather than gore. And I loved it. Now, I say this not being familiar with the musical. It may well be a disappointing movie of the musical. I have made my peace with movies and books existing as separate entities (best movie of a book: To Kill a Mockingbird; best movie with only tangential references to the book it is supposedly of: Howl’s Moving Castle), and it was a good movie in its own right. And it was like walking into a Tim Burton illustration, which is something I have trouble finding a problem with. But seven of us walked out saying, “That was a good movie” and one followed looking disgusted and incredulous. So no, it is not for everyone.
Concert: Sting and the Police – Sting had a beard. That was kind of a high point. Oh, it was a horrible venue. Walking distance home, and that’s its main attraction. Stadiums aren’t designed for concerts, I object to sitting sideways, the sound was tinny and echoey, the lights were annoying, there were too many people, it was $10 for binoculars, I had no-one to dance beside, the first opening act started before the billed time, the whole thing ran really early and Fergie was the main opening attraction which is enough for a “what the?!” segment on its own. Oh, I found out that there is maybe one Fergie song I don’t mind, but since she screamed all her lyrics anyway that was irrelevant. I am glad I went – it’s a band of which I’ll be glad to say, “yes, I saw them live” (defining “saw” broadly), but I didn’t really enjoy the experience and am glad I didn’t pay full price for my ticket. I think stadiums are for big events that are more than concerts – for cultural phenomena like U2. Sting & co just belonged somewhere more… comfortable and nostalgic. The Entertainment Centre, at least. Still and all, “Every little thing she does” under the stars of Milton was magical.